Advice for Cameron
Sir: David Cameron once saved my life from a school of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish, so now’s the time for me to save his political life with this advice: to do nothing. The British people are a fair-minded lot; they will give him another term in office because he and George Osborne have delivered the best growth rates in Europe despite the monstrous overspending and boom-bust of the Blair-Brown years. Every newly incoming ministry since the war has been re-elected — except Ted Heath’s, which broke all the rules anyhow — and this one will be too. Douglas Carswell is an intelligent man who has made a stupid mistake. Whether he gets re-elected for Ukip, and however many Tory MPs follow him if he does, the electorate knows that if it wants a referendum on Europe it has to vote Tory. Clacton and everywhere else will revert to serious rather than protest votes in the general election, because that is the time when the British people sober up and make serious choices for the future.
State of emergency services
Sir: Mary Wakefield (‘999 emergency’, 30 August) highlights a grave danger of the NHS going backwards. From 1990 on, huge progress was made in ensuring that at least one of those on each ambulance had paramedic skills. Likewise, much work went into implementing prioritised despatch — getting ambulances promptly to those cases that really need them.
All ambulance staff are heroic. But paramedics, though poorly rewarded in relation to their fire and police colleagues, enjoy a unique capacity to translate their relatively inexpensive specialist training into lives saved and tragedies avoided. They must be treasured, not exploited. Mr Hunt needs to look at this urgently.
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Health 1992–95, London SW1H
Because she’s worth it
Sir: I read James Walton’s review of Kate Bush (Arts, 30 August) on the train home from London. As a hardcore fan, I can assure him it really was well worth the £150 ticket price, return trip from Glasgow, and overnight stay. My only regret was that I was looking down from the circle. I now wish I had shelled out the money for the stalls. They seemed to be having much more fun than my cohorts, who were comparatively restrained. Indeed, I only managed one ‘We love you Kate!’ before bowing to social pressure. A Glasgow audience would have raised the roof, circle or not. But this is to gripe. It was a thoroughly splendid evening, made all the better by the discovery that Kate is a devotee of Tennyson. I don’t think it too fanciful to suggest that in her own way she is every bit as accomplished an artist as the great man himself.
Sir: Daniel Jackson’s article about nationalist zealots (‘Born-again campaigners’, 30 August) should surprise no one. Extreme nationalism, not just the zealotry of ‘recent converts’, always divides, is frequently intolerant and sometimes violent. It is currently tearing apart Scottish society, despite the nationalists’ protests that we are all having a civilised discussion about separation from the UK. Just witness the verbal and physical intimidation of Better Together supporters, the vandalism of unionist posters and the mindless online thuggery of the cybernats. Salmond’s failure to condemn this divisiveness, intolerance and outright bullying from his supporters does his cause no good. If such behaviour is a reflection of the SNP vision of an independent Scotland, then most sensible Scots will want none of it. I fear the divisions will be hard to heal after 18 September, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Sir: Daniel Jackson’s perceptive piece about the Yes campaign’s converts fails to mentioned one thing. What has mostly caused them to convert is not listless urban poverty, which is scarcely a new phenomenon. It is the sour negativism of the ‘no’ campaign, expressed in a daily diet of scare stories about the incapacity of Scotland to succeed as an independent country. This strategy, designed to demoralise the electorate into acquiescence, is what has energised the other camp.
Razing an eyebrow
Sir: Mark Mason might be interested to know that it is not just names from popular culture that baffle young people (‘Off the telly’, 30 August). Whenever I get my eyebrows waxed, I joke that I’ve come to get my Denis Healeys done. Every time, the beautician looks at me blankly.
Not my year
Sir: I originally wrote that the episode with the ‘Don’t tell him, Pike’ quote dated from 1829. Someone at The Spectator unfortunately missed the joke (you get used to this when your jokes are like mine), and ‘corrected’ it to 1982. As many of my regular pub quizzers would know, the year was in fact 1973.
Sir: The article about Peter and Ian Fleming (Books, 23 August) reminded me that in the 1950s Peter was a regular contributor to The Spectator, writing very interestingly on a variety of subjects under the pseudonym Strix. Many of your readers today are unlikely to be aware of that.
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